Six of the Most Successful Self Published Books


Successful Self Publishing

Self Published Books That Prove It's No Longer "Vanity" Publishing

There was a time not so long ago when the idea of self publishing was frowned upon. Even as recently as a decade ago, librarians frowned at the idea of adding "vanity published" titles to their collections. 

Titles like these I list below are changing their minds. And since I have self published several books, this makes me very happy! There are so many great tools you can use to help grow writers in your own communities, from hosting NaNoWriMo write-ins, to actually creating self publishing workshops. Self publishing aggregator Smashwords helps libraries who want to bring publishing to their communities, with information on how to cultivate writers, and guide them through the self publishing process. And libraries like Los Gatos, under Henry Bankhead, show what's possible when the library supports community publishing.

And who knows, you might just be helping to bring one of these self-published bestsellers into the world. 

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian Andy Weir Self Published

Andy Weir began writing his book in 2009, and since he'd already been turned down by literary agents with other publishing projects, he decided to publish it to his blog, one chapter at a time, for his blog's followers. They were so enthusiastic, they wanted him to publish it on Amazon so they could have it on their Kindles, and it sold 35,000 copies in three months. Next thing you know, he's a New York Times bestseller, and it's a movie with Matt Damon.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

These days Lisa Genova is a New York Times best selling novelist and a neuroscientist, but she started her writing career with Still Alice back in 2007. Self-published with iUniverse’s print-on-demand service, Genova sold copies out of the trunk of her car for about two years, along with discussion guides in support of people with Alzheimer’s and their caretakers, leading to greater understanding, and deeper connections and conversations for those affected by it. Since being published by Simon & Schuster, Still Alice has over 2.6 million copies in print in over 30 languages. 

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

McGuire’s debut novel, Beautiful Disaster, became an international bestseller, paving the way for the New Adult genre. She sold over 30,000 copies within the first few months. 

An imprint of Simon & Schuster, Atria, bought the rights to Beautiful Disaster, followed by her second novel, Walking Disaster. But McGuire grew weary of the traditional route and returned to self-publishing with her third novel, Beautiful Oblivion

Then she worked out a print deal with Walmart. Her novel, Beautiful Redemption, was in the stores in 2015.

Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown

In 2000, Amanda Brown had a film script that she wanted to make into a novel. Producer Marc Platt helped her develop her manuscript into a novel.

Brown self-published Legally Blonde as a print-on-demand book through AuthorHouse in 2001, the same year the film debuted. 

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

After every publisher he contacted turned him down, Robert Kiyosaki opted to self-publish Rich Dad Poor Dad in 1997. Kiyosaki and his wife printed 1,000 copies of the book. A friend bought 976 copies and agreed to sell them at his car wash business.

Three years later, the book was the only self published book on the New York Times bestseller list.

His books have now been on the market for over 20 years, and readers continue to benefit from his financial advice.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Christopher Paolini began writing the first draft of Eragon by hand as a homeschooled teenager. After over a year of rewriting and editing, he showed the final manuscript to his parents, who immediately saw the book’s potential and decided to publish it through their small, home-based publishing company, Paolini International.

Paolini traveled across the country with his parents to promote the book. He delivered 135 talks at bookshops, schools, and libraries, often dressed in a medieval costume, but still the book did not receive a lot of attention. Like many breakthrough stories, Paolini's began when an already-famous author found his work. In 2002, writer Carl Hiaasen was on vacation when his stepson bought a copy and immediately loved the book. Hiaasen brought the book to the attention of publishing house Alfred A. Knopf, and after another round of editing, Knopf published Eragon in the summer of 2003.

What books did we miss? What self published books have been come to life in your library? How have your feelings about self published books changed over the years? Leave a comment and let us know!

About the author 

Heather Teysko

Heather Teysko is head of community and engagement for Library Lever, and she loves running the Common Stacks Podcast. She's been in Library Land for close to 20 years, with a career that has focused on technology and ebooks. She is also passionate about history, having built a website on Colonial American history in 1998 that got to #1 on Yahoo (when that was a thing) has been podcasting on Tudor England since 2009, and her podcast The Renaissance English History Podcast has a social following of over 50,000 people. She has published several books including Sideways and Backwards: a Novel of Time Travel and Self Discovery, which was negatively compared to Outlander in several Amazon reviews, despite the fact that it is set in a completely different time period, but the comparison still feels like an honor.
You can follow her on twitter @teysko.

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